High school basketball: Crystal Lake Central sends team to Special Olympics state tournament

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The stakes are not as high, and any pressure is pretty much nonexistent in Dan Badgley’s coaching position.

And the former Crystal Lake Central baseball coach and Northern Illinois University pitcher is thoroughly enjoying his new team.

Crystal Lake Central Black will compete Friday and Saturday in the Special Olympics Illinois 2019 State Basketball Tournament in the Bloomington-Normal area. Teams from around the state will play in four divisions: senior male, high school, female and junior. Each of those divisions has multiple groups divided into similar skill levels.

Central Black won its Region B tournament in High School 6 level last weekend and will play Joliet Township Gold at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University’s Horton Fieldhouse. If the Tigers win, they meet the winner between the Brooks Eagles and Hersey Huskies Orange at 8 a.m. Saturday in the championship game at Illinois Wesleyan University.

If Central loses, it plays in the consolation game at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at ISU. Badgley, who coached Central’s varsity baseball team from 2009 to 2015, started the team last year and has seven boys and two girls on the team. All the players are in Central’s Functional Living Skills class, which Badgley teaches.

“The games are very informal,” Badgley said. “We keep score, but it’s more about the kids are out there playing, and we see how well each other’s doing. The coaches from other schools are great. They try to make everything fair and evenly matched. So when you get to a regional, you’re able to play teams comparable to your level.”

Central has 10 other players on its Orange team. Games in the state tournament will be eight-minute quarters, and Badgley said the skill level, for the Black team, is strong.

“We’re comparable to what a normal high school game would be,” he said. “The rules are adjusted to your level for lower teams. The level Black is at is pretty decent basketball. It’s not the high school game, but it’s pretty good.”

Players for Central Black are Jacob Donahue, Eric Larsen, Michael Lilly, Jake Perkins, Alyssa Pishotta, Mikey Schneiderman, Nick Schultz, Hannah Wood and Cameron Yelle. Badgley said the support from administration and fans at Central has been great.

“We’re lucky,” he said. “We’re trying to get (Crystal Lake) South, Cary-Grove and Prairie Ridge to have teams (in the future),” Badgley said. “There’s people there who want to get involved.”

Badgley just hopes the other schools can field their own teams because Central’s players have developed school pride.

“Our kids really like having ‘Tigers’ on their shirts,” Badgley said.